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Stratford Festival's Anita Gaffney Named One Of Canada's Most Powerful Women

Stratford Festival's Anita Gaffney Named One Of Canada's Most Powerful Women

Executive Director Anita Gaffney has been named one of Canada's Most Powerful Women and will be honoured tonight at the Women's Executive Network (WXN) awards ceremony in Toronto, where she will receive the Top 100 Award in the BMO Arts, Sports & Entertainment category.

"Anita is not one to seek attention or awards. She is humble, self-reflective, and thoughtful," says Sylvia Chrominska, Chair of the Stratford Festival's Board of Governors. "But she is also a forward-thinking, determined and tireless leader, who is called upon by government, her industry peers, and community organizations for her thoughts, input and counsel. She is indeed one of the most powerful women leaders in the performing arts, but her abilities reach far beyond gender, making her one of the most powerful and effective people working in the arts today."

The WXN's Top 100 Awards pay tribute to outstanding women across Canada who have advocated for diversity in the workforce, and who serve as an inspiration for the next generation of leaders. The awards span the private, public and not-for-profit sectors, with candidates selected by WXN's Diversity Council.

"We are celebrating 100 of Canada's highest achieving women in diverse fields," said Sherri Stevens, CEO of WXN. "All 100 are role models for the generations who will follow, which is why it's very important to recognize and celebrate their great achievements."

Gaffney has been Executive Director of the Stratford Festival, North America's largest classical theatre company, since 2013. She leads all administrative and operational business activities and, together with Artistic Director Antoni Cimolino, sets the strategic direction for the organization. With a budget of $61 million, the Festival is one of the most self-sufficient cultural organizations on the continent, earning 95% of its revenue through ticket sales, fundraising and ancillary activities.

Since being appointed Executive Director, Gaffney has guided the Festival towards financial stability; eliminating an inherited $3.4-million deficit and posting an operating surplus in each year of her tenure. She has also supported the introduction of a number of new initiatives including the Stratford Festival Forum, the Laboratory, the HD film series and the Stratford Direct bus service. Her leadership has also seen the launch of a $100-million campaign to support the construction of the Tom Patterson Theatre Centre - scheduled to open in 2020 - and the activities housed in this new facility.

Gaffney joined the Festival in 1991 as a Publicity Assistant, and over the past 27 years has held a variety of positions, including Director of Marketing during the theatre's years of peak attendance. She designed the Festival's customer relationship marketing system, which remains in use today and has been emulated by arts organizations around the world.

In addition to her marketing expertise, Gaffney is highly regarded for her skills in government relations, finance, change management and strategic planning, honed during her years as the Festival's Administrative Director. During this time, she led lobby efforts on behalf of major cultural organizations in Ontario, which ultimately inspired the creation of the province's $27-million Arts Investment Fund.

An active member of the Stratford community, Gaffney is Past Chair of the City of Stratford's economic development agency, InvestStratford, and the Stratford Pubic Library. In 2011 she served as the Campaign Chair of the United Way Perth-Huron, raising $1.2 million. Within the broader arts community, she has volunteered with the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres, and provided marketing and administrative support to Culture Days Ontario. She currently serves on the board of Destination Ontario.

In 2008 Ms Gaffney was selected to participate in the Governor General's Leadership Conference, and in 2006 she received a Business Excellence Award for Personal Achievement from the Stratford and District Chamber of Commerce. In 2010 she was named Woman of the Year in the Arts by Optimism Place Stratford.

She has an MBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business at Western University and has continued her executive education through Harvard Business School.

Past WXN Top 100 award winners include some of Canada's most iconic female trailblazers: author Margaret Atwood; astronaut Dr. Roberta Bondar; former Governor General Michaëlle Jean; Arlene Dickinson, chief executive officer of Venture Communications, Christine Magee, president of Sleep Country Canada; Heather Reisman, founder and CEO of Indigo Books & Music; and Kathleen Taylor, chair of the board of Royal Bank of Canada.

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